NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Trend Toward Taking A Year Off Before College

April 17, 2001

The vast majority of high-school graduates who intend to continue their education enter college the following fall. However, a small but growing number are taking a year off between high school and college to engage in other pursuits.

A number of guidance counselors and college admissions officers are promoting the notion that higher education works best for those who wait. "I don't think any 18-year-old, for any reason, should be in college," says Cornelius Bull, a Cambridge, Mass., consultant. "If you're older, you do it better. You don't fall down drunk and waste your time," he adds.

  • A University of California - Los Angeles, survey of freshmen at four-year colleges last year found that 98 percent had come directly from high school.
  • But Americorps -- the government's service program for people 18 to 24 -- has grown to 40,000 volunteers from just 7,000 in 1994.
  • American Field Service's exchange programs attracted 82 people over 18 this year -- compared with 37 in 1995.
  • Dynamy -- a clearinghouse for post-high-school internships -- has twice as many applications now as it did a few years ago.

Harvard University's official letter of acceptance has, for decades, suggested that students take a break before coming to campus. The school's dean of admissions, William R. Fitzsimmons, is a strong advocate of the interim year. "Most students would be better off is they were able to get some perspective on themselves, their lives, what they hope to accomplish," he says.

Source: Jodi Wilgoren, "Year Off Beckons More of the College-Bound," New York Times, April 17, 2001.


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